WHS soccer team eyes season opener
by Steve Behr Sports Editor
Watauga has 14 seniors who saw varsity experience last season who are now on its 2013 roster. The Pioneers take that experience into their game Monday night at home against rival Ashe County.
The junior varsity plays at 5 p.m., while the varsity plays at 6:30 p.m.
"I've got a lot of senior leadership on this team," Pioneers coach Woody McKay said. "We have 14 seniors in the lineup. Senior captain and keeper Jake Chasteen has verbally committed to (Appalachian State), and Cam Linnville is at outside back."
Ashe County had a dynamic season in 2012. The Huskies lost their first game, but rebounded to win 19 straight games before settling for a 2-2 tie with Forbush.
Ashe went on to a 21-2-1 record before falling 3-1 to Trinity in the second round of the state 2-A playoffs. Ashe's first loss was a 2-1 setback to Watauga on the first day of the season.
The Huskies are not the only team that saw an unbeaten season go down the drain because of the Pioneers. Watauga also beat Hickory 3-1 to snap the Red Tornadoes' 11-game winning streak at the time.
Hickory finished 27-2 and lost in the 2012 state 3-A finals.
"Ashe had a great season last year where their only loss (in the regular season) was the first game to us," McKay said. "Then they went undefeated until they lost in the playoffs."
Watauga finished with an 18-4-3 record last season. The Pioneers advanced into the third round of the state 4-A playoffs with a 2-1 win over Mallard Creek in the first round and a 1-0 win over A.C. Reynolds in the second.
The season came to an end with a 1-0 loss to T.C. Roberson. Watauga plays at McDowell on Wednesday and at Avery on Friday.
This fall, defense will be the key to success for the Pioneers, who have not allowed a goal in three scrimmages. Watauga beat Roberson 1-0 in a 55-minute scrimmage, and followed with a 5-0 win over 3-A Erwin.
The Pioneers also beat West Forsyth 3-0 in another scrimmage.
"Roberson tested us," McKay said. "Until we get to A.C. Reynolds (Aug. 30) and until we get to St. Stephens and Hickory, we might not be heavily tested. But, soccer is a funny game. Upsets happen and the best team doesn't always win."
Anchoring Watauga's defense is goalkeeper Jake Chasteen. Matt Hall and Jacob Michel will also help on the defensive end of the field.
Tucker Chasteen and Local Raichle will be asked to score goals. McKay also hopes Justin Hall can use his speed to score on some breakaway opportunities.
"Justin Hall has great speed," McKay said. "If he can get a ball through, he's good at finishing."
McKay said Ashe would be without standout player Miguel Ramos, who dislocated his shoulder. Ramos was the Player of the Year in the Mountain Valley Conference in 2012.
McKay said Ashe still has some offensive weapons and could be a threat to Watauga's defense.
"It's a fun matchup because their club team is half Ashe players and half Watauga," McKay said.